More than a few turn-of-the-century American golf clubs bear the name of Tom Bendelow on their original design. The difference when considering Algonquin Golf Club is that Bendelow was an actual member of the club. Which is not to say that the club is overly sentimental; nearing its centennial, Algonquin brought in Brian Silva for a relative overhaul.
Among the most impressive holes are the respective closers to the front and back nines, which both require strategic approach to the fairway bunkering, based on whether one prefers better distance or angle into the green. Another eye-catcher is No. 11, which has been converted into a Redan-style par three, playing across Shady Grove Creek.
One thing that Silva was not able to change was the landlocked nature of the course, which hasn’t added much distance since Bendelow expanded the club to 18 holes during 1913 (famed Scot Robert Foulis was responsible for construction). The fairways remain tight and the conditioning supreme.
When it comes to the quality of turf conditions, very few courses in the Gateway region stand up to Algonquin. Playing here, especially as the turf firms up in the fall, is always a delight thanks to greens that roll incredibly fast and true. From an architectural perspective, the club’s history is a wild one; the original nine holes were built by Johnny Appleseed himself, Tom Bendelow, with subsequent additions by the Foulis brothers and a significant renovation by Brian Silva in the late 1990s; there are times where the routing does feel a bit confusing due to all the iterations, but it is nonetheless a wonderful day out that should not be passed up if one is invited.
The club’s scorecard tops out at a mere 6,222 yards at a par of 71, but the routing nonetheless opens with three very stout par fours, the three longest on the course, playing alongside one another adjacent to the clubhouse and pool complex. Provided the player can get through those in one piece, the course ultimately begins to offer scoring opportunities with the par five fourth, playing downhill along busy railroad tracks with a massive slope feeding balls into its green from the right. The seventh is another opportunity, a short par four playing through a deep valley up the hill to a two-tier green that falls off precipitously on nearly all sides. The challenging eighth and ninth round out the outward nine, however, with very precise shot requirements on the approaches to their smallish greens.
In some competitions, the shorter par fives on the inward side at Algonquin have been converted to par fours; the decision to do so on the 460-yard tenth is one I disagree with. The tenth doglegs sharply left around out-of-bounds, necessitating a layup or sharp draw around the trees to set up a shot over a pond towards its elevated green. The par three eleventh features a Redan-style green, with little of it visible from the tee and most of it feeding from right-to-left off a severe slope in between bunkers short and long. After the awkward twelfth and downhill par three thirteenth, the course concludes with a series of nearly straightaway holes on what I believe was the original part of the course. The remaining highlights include the fifteenth, a drivable par four bending ever so slightly to the left with a crowned fairway deflecting balls in the wrong direction, the sixteenth, a long, downhill par five, and the seventeenth, a short, uphill par three to a narrow little green. The closing hole is yet another birdie opportunity, an uphill par five that is very reachable provided the player can find the undulating fairway dotted with bunkers.
I’ve been lucky enough to play Algonquin five times, most of which were in competition or practice days, but one visit particularly sticks out for its pleasantness: a practice round for the St. Louis District Golf Association men’s championship where I was set up to play on a Tuesday afternoon with the course completely to myself. The weather in St. Louis in July can be sweltering, but this particular Tuesday was very pleasant, with low humidity and a high only in the mid-eighties. I opted to walk, and with utterly perfect firm and fast course conditions on that day and an unhurried, unbothered pace it’s as close to pure golfing heaven as I’ve found on a course just about anywhere.
Played October 3 & 13, 2017 and July 12, 18, & 19, 2019